Iran “is such a complex place that people will, of course, tell you not to go there”. In the first chapter of an ongoing body of work, the Melbourne-based photographer challenges the “narrow and misleading” ways in which the Middle Eastern country is often portrayed
In 2016, a chance meeting with a young Iranian couple led Youness Miloudi to make his first visit to Tehran. The encounter had, evidently, made a big impression. “To be honest, I didn’t know much about the country, especially about the daily life of Iranians,” he says.
A French photographer based in Paris, Miloudi found the trip a huge learning experience. “This first visit was enough to make me realise how much I did not know this culture, and that I had, like many people, prejudices about Iran.”
With the aim of challenging his own preconceptions, and of coming closer to understanding the country, he embarked on several more trips throughout 2017 and 2018, documenting the people and places he visited. PerseFornia is one part of the resulting project, The Iranians, and consists of documentary portraits of the youth of Tehran.
From the bustling cities in the work of Eamonn Doyle and Guy Tillim, to Mark Power’s survey of decaying American landscapes, and a collaboration between Clémentine Schneidermann, Charlotte James, and a group of children in South Wales – this month’s issue is dedicated to the idea of the street as a site of theatre and historical spectacle.
The World Press Photo Foundation has announced the six talents from Asia in its ongoing 6×6 Global Talent Program. Aimed at picking out under-recognised visual story-tellers from around the world, the 6×6 programme is now on its sixth and final region in its first cycle. The photographers picked out this time are: Amira Al-Sharif, Yemen; Azin Anvar Haghighi, Iran; Saumya Khandelwal, India; Senthil Kumaran Rajendran, India; Shahria Sharmin, Bangladesh; and Yan Cong, China.
The image-makers were recommended by an international group of over 100 nominators, and selected by a jury comprised of: Ammar Abd Rabbo (Syria), photographer and journalist; NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati (Nepal), photographer and curator; Claudia Hinterseer (Netherlands), senior video producer South China Morning Post; and Kazuma Obara (Japan), photographer.
“These documentary practices coalesced into a visual culture which, with its aptitude for capturing and transmitting collective emotions, became a tool for political propaganda,” write Hannah Darabi and Chowra Makaremi. They’re talking about the work produced in Iran in the years 1979-83, the period after the fall of the Shah and at the start of the Islamic government and a time in which freedom of speech briefly flourished, they argue, before descending into something darker.
“These few years stand out on their own in terms of the country’s publishing history,” adds Makaremi. “The creation and distribution of books would never be as unfettered as it was during this period. Nevertheless, at the same moment, books were also progressively becoming instruments of political propaganda and publishing became the laboratory in which to experiment with every form of dissemination of emotions, ideologies, and opinions. This propaganda operated through the production of texts, but also, and especially as of 1979, through visual and pictorial production.”
Darabi is a visual artist and collector who was born in 1981 in Tehran but is now based in Paris; her collection of Iranian photobooks make up the backbone of Le Bal’s latest exhibition, along with her own photographic “reconstructions”, creating using contemporary photographs of Tehran and archive images such as family snaps, press images, and postcards. Makaremi, a tenured researcher and a member of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, has “decrypted” the exhibition; in addition, Le Bal and Spector Books have worked with Darabi to create an accompanying photobook, with an introduction by Makaremi.
Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1988, Hashem Shakeri studied architecture in TAFE (New South Wales Technical and Further Education Commission of Australia), and started his professional photography career in 2010. In 2015 he was Commended in the Ian Parry Scholarship, and in 2017 his images were included in the Rencontres d’Arles exhibition Iran, Year 38, alongside work by photographers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Newsha Tavakolian.
Shakeri’s ongoing series on climate change in Sistan and Balouchestan looks at the effect of drought in the Iranian province, which is located in the southeast of the country, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been suffering from drought for the last 18 years, which has created severe famine in a region once famed for its agriculture and forests. “Nowadays, the Sistan region has faced astonishing climate change, which has turned this wide area into an infertile desert empty of people,” writes Shakeri.
“Her project talks about the identity that the state wants women to project in public,” says Vivienne Gamble, director of Seen Fifteen and now curator of the show Catharsis for Belfast Exposed. “She comes from a family where they didn’t have those rules behind closed doors at home. She was conflicted about having this public-facing image, and this different, much more relaxed and liberal, private existence.” She’s talking about Shenasmenah, a project by Iranian-born photographer, filmmaker and curator Amak Mahmoodian included in the three-person Catharsis show.
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
Returning for its eight edition from 13 September, Tbilisi Photo is an international festival in the heart of the Caucasus which hopes to bridge the image-making communities from across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This year themed Fashion, the diverse programme includes a look at Guy Bourdin’s iconic oeuvre, the Dutch artist Viviane Sassen’s approach to fashion photography, and an exclusive display of Iranian fashion magazines published before the Islamic revolution in 1978.
Global business developer for Magnum Photos and founder of Firecracker, Fiona Rogers picks out her top five from the Arles festival and its fringe events – the group show Iran, Year 38; Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann; The Incurable Egoist by Masahisa Fukase; Life in Cities by Michael Wolf; and The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde